Salute the new wise guy, Lage raho Munnabhai- Bapu ke Lal or Jessica Lall?

September 19, 2006

The word “lal” in hindi implies one’s children and Gandhiji was revered as Bapu(Father) by many. The movie “Lage raho Munnabhai” is a very good attempt at remembering his legacy. The director has tried to show quite humorously how truth and non-violence which is what Gandhiji stood for are still one of the best ways to deal with day to day life situations.

Jessica lall more than anybody else in recent times symbolizes the fight for truth and Justice. Almost the entire mainstream media united in appealing and making presentations for justice when her murderer was adjudged not guilty by the court. Priyadarshini Matto is another case- she was raped and murdered by the son of a police officer who again managed to get away because of a priviledged background. In a country where the father of the nation is deemed an apostle of truth and non-violence and whose professional integrity as a lawyer is unquestionable, such incidents are clearly a blot on his unique legacy.

The Times of India supplement September 17,2006 in an article “Gandhi kaun hai” states that though a majority of Indians still believe in a peaceful way out in settling a dispute, a whopping 64% of Indians and 90% Delhiites believe that Gandhigiri does not work anymore.

The Chairman of Infosys, Mr Narayan Murthy, a man known as much for his integrity as for his numerous achievements in the software Industry admits in the book “Business Gurus speak”, “Since all our operations were outside, we had very few operations here(India) and had no need to bribe anyone. Maybe we would have done it, if forced to by circumstances. Every corporation can take only a limited amount of nuisance; beyond that it becomes very difficult“. One has to admire Mr Murthy’s forthrightness in admitting this.

Speaking from my own experience, the best boss(an outstanding CEO and later very successful businessman) that I worked under told me once that ” I draft a legal agreement with the assumption that the entire world is a cheat.” He said that that is the best way to be safe because practically everybody cheats.

Exactly the same words were mentioned by a lady on NDTV in a program on Karan Johar’s “Kabhi alvida na kehnai” . She was talking in the context of extra marital affairs and said that eveyrbody who thinks that he can get away with it cheats.Cheating is something that has become so common that one is more surprised when it does not happen. A government organization’s “commission” almost trippled over a decade.

It’s an all pervasive culture- some doctors misguide patients for money, some lawyers delay cases deliberately for money, some chartered accountants collude with the taxmen and fleece the client etc. Some teachers force tuitions on their students, one gets to hear corruption by the police now and then and one has even heard of some elements in the media indulging in corruption of a different kind. One wonders how “Gandhigiri” can work with such people . The question very often is “Who polices the police, who educates the educationists, who watches the watchdog, who makes law for the lawmakers etc or to sum up “Who keeps the keeper? They remind you of one of the all time great songs of Hindi Cinema from the movie Amar prem Chingari koi Bhadke(taken from http://www.youtube.com):-

The whole song, which has one of the best lyrics of all times tries to explain that if the people who are responsible for certain duties do the exact opposite, nobody can save you. Not only Gandhigiri but nothing can work in a situation like this. God alone knows what the proportion of such people in the total is- whether they are an exception or the rule? The legal system being perceived as “remedy being worse than the disease“, the common man feels stifled and helpless.

Well known management consultant Arindam Chaudhary uses the words “practically defunct judiciary” and “inefficient and lethargic judicial system on perpetual strike for all practical purposes” in his book “Count your chickens before they hatch”. It sounds like a sweeping statement and one can’t help wondering how far it is true. Not only in the Judiciary but elsewhere, people take their professions for granted. One’s occupation sustains oneself emotionally(for a majority of waking hours)and financially and one should have the highest regard for it.

Contrast this to what is said in Gandhi’s autobiography(those not inclined can skip),
” As a student, I heard that a lawyer’s profession is a liar’s profession. That did not influence me. I had no intention of earning either position or money by lying.” “I have never resorted to untruth in my profession and since a large part of my legal practice was in the interest of public work, I charged nothing beyond out of the box expenses and that too I met myself”. “The true function of a lawyer is to unite parties driven asunder”.

Gandhiji was practical enough to admit though that “Truthfulness in the practice of a profession cannot cure it of the fundamental defect that vitiates it”

Gandhiji’s views on funds management-” Carefully kept accounts are a sine qua non for every organization. Without them, it falls into disrepute. Without properly kept accounts it is impossible to maintian truth in its pristine purity” . Gandhi always insisted on receipts being given on the amounts paid.

Gandhiji’s views on truthfulness in business- ” I strongly contested my merchant friends views when they said that business was a very practical thing and that pure truth was out of question in business. I reminded tham that their conduct in foreign land is how Iindians would be judged in general.”
Sometime back, there was another movie called ‘Maine Gandhi ko nahin mara” which stated how Indians remember the father of the nation only during his birth and death anniversaries. The truth is that he and his legacy have been murdered in a variety of ways and there can be a post on each of them. He being a lawyer, apart from “Truth” being explored above, our laws merit some detailed mention:-

In our colony. some people have let out their property to Banks. This causes traffic problems of Herculean proportions. About a week back, I received a call from the security to remove my car. I was surprised as I had parked it in the right place and said so in so many words. A young lady pleaded “You maybe right but I am very late and my children are waiting. Please remove your car and let me go”. She was almost on the verge of tears and I had no alternative but to remove the car. Banks in the immediate neighborhood apart, someone had dumped the construction material nearby(with no fear of the law) which compounded the problem considerably. Traffic is a daily nuisance and it probably takes even the bank customers more time to park the car and go back than the time spent in the bank. What can one do if the laws themselves are idiotic? Why allow any commercial activity in a residential area? The resident welfare association had once closed one gate in desperation as a result of which some people could not back to their own houses after going to the local club and were up in arms. This can have an endless spiral in stupidity but the basic fact remains- why are such stupid laws there in the first place? Some years ago, there was an article in a magazine by the name of “The law is an ass” which gave details of stupid and obsolete laws. Can “Gandhigiri” work in such cases? Indian businesmmen often complain of default in payments. In the United states, anybody can purchase anybody’s credit for a nominal sum and nobody tries to fool around with their credit history as everything runs on credit. Why can’t such laws be introduced here?
There must be donkey number of such cases where people have to face mental and emotional rapes without any hope for justice. It may not be possible for everybody to be as truthful as Gandhiji was but at least we can have sane laws.

I have always admired Gandhiji for his integrity and his sincerity. Some of his views on giving more emphasis to rural India have also proved correct. On the negative side, some of his conduct against the leaders who were against his non-violent policy leaves a lot to be desired. His family also suffered because of some of his obsessions. Forcing “Prohibition”(in Gujarat) on poor gujjus like us some of whom believe in enjoying their drink is actually a farce which is why maximum bootlegging deaths occur in cities like Baroda. Thank god they did not similarly try to impose his views on sex.

In Ganghigiri’s context, no system is infallible and if you need a Gandhi against a Churchill, you need a Churchill against a Hitler. No one strategy works all the time; it is the situation which dictates the leadership style. Lord Krishna himself orchestrated the Mahabharat(epic war) because the situation demanded it. One must mention here that the leadership likely to succeed in the stress filled 21st century -mother and servant leadership is similar to Gandhiji’s style. Gandhigiri maybe back in business not just in reel but in real life as well.

Today(25/9/2006), six days after the original post, I came across an interesting post which stated how Gandhigiri had failed with Pakistan(I had read similar posts after the recent Bombay blasts and some even suggested that we should follow Israel):-


It reminded me of what the Mahatma had said once which I wish I had mentioned earlier. Gandhiji had once specified in the context of the Hindu-Muslim riots ” ‘Ahimsa’ does not imply that when your sisters are getting raped, you standby and do nothing. That is not Ahimsa but cowardliness”. One has to see the situation and then act instead of being overobsessed with any one strategy, whatever it maybe.

Movies like “Lage raho Munnabhai” and “Rang de basanti” are very good symbolisms but some of our problems are too deep rooted and need a surgical operation. These problems cannot be solved by token symbolism no matter how much we eulogize the father of the nation.

I am a firm believer in “Without danger, one cannot go beyond danger”. When things go completely out of control, maybe Gandhi II will emerge from the teeming millions of India once again to our rescue. It is said that the hour produces the man. Till then, while trying to solve our problems and live like “Bapu ke Lal”, we have no option but to suffer like Jessica lall.
This post has an excellent presentation of both podcast and videocast
Remembering the Mahatma
After I wrote this, while bloging I came across a couple of more websites
Indian legal system
Teachers disgrace

This corroborates what is written earlier. How can Gandhigiri or anything work if people do the opposite of what they are supposed to be doing. One only hopes that such people are in minority.


  1. Indian Laws are one of silliest and most antiquated in the world.

    India is one of the handful of countries – where – a man fears the police more than the goonda. WHY? Because, very often Police is Worse than the Goonda.

    Yes – many don’t believe this – but you will – if you walk into Police Stations in much of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Infact states like Karnataka do not fare much better either.

    To give one fine example of where we are headed:
    Times of India reported recently that in Bangalore most of the candidates in Municipal Elections were – Cable Operators ! And it is a well known fact that most Cable Operators themselves are goons.

  2. There is a saying which when loosely translated to english goes something like this “You can protect your cattle from wolves by putting a fence… But if the fence itself starts eating the cattle… nothing can be done to help them!”.

    That’s the same story in our country… The whole system needs a revamp. If one or two Ghandhi types go in the system they can’t do anything! In no time they will be swallowed!

  3. Sri Lanka is in the same kinda situation. The very ppl who claim to protect the country r eating it away. We have been wishing for a Gandhi for over 23yrs now!


  4. The law is indeed an ass. However, laws will not change until the people making them change. We all know that these people will not change until we vote them out. Unfortunately, it seems there are not enough literate and educated people in India on the same frequency.

    Almost everyone (or at least the people in a postion to make a difference) has at least one vested interest with the capability to do more harm than good to the national interest. It happens to be, that this vested interest is high on the priority list of the said individual and he/she acts alone in order to progress it, without considering the greater good.

    Its a vicious cylce where not enough souls are willing to opt for the opportunity cost of giving up their vested interest, which is a more cohesive and liveable India.

  5. hello Hiren

    Great article.I loved the way you integrated movies, daily events and politics.
    I loved Lage raho as well…and it does make you stand up and think about gandhigiri…..each and every word of yours echoed as they spoke the truth….

  6. Very interesting thoughts and well written. Again we all talk about it but when it comes to doing something about it where do we stand?

  7. Hi there…

    Thanks for dropping by my blog and sharing ya heart.


  8. Sudden changes or something like that is not possible unless or untill each person make an attempt by own. Films like this create awareness and if even for a moment a person think over is a good sign.

  9. “if you need a Gandhi against a Churchill, you need a Churchill against a Hitler”–Totally agree with you on that.Nothing works out the best and every system has its own fallouts.

    Also greatly liked the concept of “Lage Raho Munnabhai”.We can atleast try to apply the ideas to a few cases and see if it really works out(remember, the girl taking decisions based on how the boy behaved with the waiter!!)

  10. Interesting post, well-written!

    Thanks for visiting my blog Hiren 🙂

  11. What an interesting post!
    I’m afraid I haven’t seen this film but going by your post the message it carries is rather inspiring.
    Isn’t that one of the objectives of any piece of good art? What the artist presents may in fact be utopic, however, it does light a spark in the hearts of many and forces introspection in others; both of which you’d agree are positive outcomes.
    Gandhi has been a role model for the world, and is even more so today because of the premptive nature of the violence that we are witnessing.

  12. Good article. Not just India, the whole world needs another Gandhi.

  13. u hv been bang on boss.. gandhigiri in its entirety might be difficult to do in these days of impropriety.. but as hope prevails.. all we do is whine.. hardly any1 takes up cudgels.. even the PIL’s are more of publicity stunts rather than altruistic motives.. why dont u write on PIL’s dude ?

  14. Perhaps we should all ‘find Gandhi’. He has been lost somewhere in this world of instant relationships, instant love, instant sex, instand everything.

    And I do agree with your take on everything and everyone cheats. But hope floats. Even after all that.

    Thanks for your comment by the way. Appreciate it.:)

  15. @Apun ka Desh couldn’t agree with you more
    @shark apt quote
    @ Keshi, Sri lanka needs one badly too
    @ Enigma- Vicious circle all right
    @ Radhika- Thanks
    @ Aditi- Thanks
    @ Jwellery- Cheers
    @ Paavani – I agre
    @ Manish- Horses for courses
    @ Ashwathi- No comments
    @ I,me, my- Thanks
    @ Suji- Think Global, act local
    @ j.jagan- Which Pil?
    @ Tanushree- One has to keep hoping

  16. I agree Hiren, there are lots of problems in India and gandhigiri might not be a solution to each of them. However, instead of talking about all the problems, why not focus on one problem and try to come with a solution. The problem might be as small as an autorickshaw driver asking for extra money. Think over it and tell us of a solution, with or without gandhigiri. Then we’ll see if it can be implemented within our resources.
    Gandhigiri is a way of thinking, a way to find solutions … it might not always work, we should not focus on where it can’t work, but where it can.

  17. hmmmmm,like always, A good read!
    -Lage Raho Hiren Bhai

  18. Thanks for commenting on my blog. How did you find out about it?

    A few points:
    1) About a bad judiciary and police system: the highest judge in India is paid Rs. 30,000 a month. This man settles cases which involve sums four to five orders of *magnitude* more than that. How much are you paid? Tell me, is it fair to pay people so little?
    2) I realize the police is corrupt, and that it’s a wrong thing, but again, they can barely subsist on such salaries. Do kids from middle class families aspire to be cops? In the US they do, because in the US being a cop is a legitimate, high-paying job. India has forex reserves of $130 billion: couldn’t we spread some of that love to improve salaries of public servants?
    3) There is too much casteism. It needs to go. Period.
    4) The public image of a politician needs to be revamped. We need educated kids from “good families” going into politics — the kind of people working in companies today. We need to remove that stigma from the profession. There’s no other way to get good governance. And here, we ourselves are to blame.

    Finally, we need rights — most of all to freedom of expression. Not the watered down version we have today, where a woman can be sued for expressing her views on marriage. Full, absolute, unconditional right to speech. And we need gay rights, and fast.

  19. Sometimes I think, the law is not an ass; people make it appear like an ass when they take disadvantage of it and show lack of will to change it.

    One of the comments above says “In the US they do,because in the US being a cop is a legitimate, high-paying job.” …the “high-paying” part is simply not true.

    I also worry that people are trying to hard and too fast to find another Gandhi, another revolutionary. Let people keep doing what they are good at; trying to coax people into fields they don’t belong to is a terrible waste of resources.

  20. My bad. Should have been “adequately paying”. Current starting salaries of US cops are $30,402, rising to $36,689 after 5 years (http://news.pajamasmedia.com/politics/2006/09/13/10798781_City_holds_off_o.shtml)
    This is slightly less than double the average per capita income of the US. In a word, enough to save up for retirement, put kids through community college, etc.

  21. Hello Hiren,

    Today I got chance to read your articles, good to read…love the lates article…hope some people will have some sort of effect by watching this movie…and India would much more better place…

    Thanks buddy for dropping your views on my blog ….

  22. Hiren,

    First of all let me thank you for visiting my blog and jotting your comment. I am happy that you could see my point of view in the post on my blog. You are very right in saying that journalists are not the final authority. Today blogs are giving space to comon people to be on a par with professional journalists.

    This article, for example, on Gandhian values in today’s context is wonderful one. What Gandhi enunciated were some basic truths. For example regarding development of villages. Today we are still talking on the need to develop smaller towns and cities so that pressure on bigger cities could be reduced!

  23. Hey

    I saw your views on http://archana.blogspot.com and really liked the line “real change can only be brought by severe adverse circumstances”; I second your opinion completely. Sometimes I feel all that spirituality and Gandhi happened because of what India was going through at that time.

  24. i’ve never come face to face with our legal system but i agree on the fact that gandhigiri wont work here.. your work will always be in pending situation if u dont go by the system’s corrupt people..

    I agree with “suspect” on all the 4 terms.. And i think it’ll take a lot of time to change whole system like that..

  25. The key problem here is not corruption….that exists in all places in the world, yet does not become an all pervading problem like it does in India.

    The problems are – population and education.

    Once these are addressed in a credible way, the problem of corruption is thwarted to a great degree.

  26. An excellently written post. To me, it is an eye-opener. Thanks!

  27. I seriously doubt that Gandhi-giri works in the present day. It’s all very well for movies to flout it, it’s another thing in reality. People do not even follow basic “humanity” nowdays – forget about Gandhism. I do believe that Indian laws are old, and for civil society to work, law and order is a must. And that’s precisely what India doesn’t have – law and order and justice – the root of all problems.

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  29. Good piece. A lot has been brought togather along with Gandhiji. It made an interesting read.
    For me, Gandhiji is perhaps most significant among those forefathers we can recall with reverance. Not to mention, he was one of the most honest one.
    Are his theories relevant now? Now that is the question we need to handle.

  30. hi buddy,
    i agree, lying and corruption has became so common that if any body dont do that they were awaked….

    there’s a popular saying…
    everyone is right till he has been caught…

  31. Interesting post.That movie had really put Gandhi’s preaching from forgotten cobwebs to the light of the day.But I guess this change is not permanent.We Indians as a society have become so used to corruption as a part of our life that it might take a generation or two to wipe it off. I remember myself when confronted with a Tickets Sold Out sticker at the multiplex said to myself “Had it been a normal theatre surely there would be blacker lurking around for a latecomer like me”.

  32. perhaps this is the BEST post i’ve read in my entire webLife. it moved ME. not overstating a bit. no words to express my kudos 4 u!

  33. Very well written Hiren. If I start on a comment, might just go on and on. You’ve inspired me to write a separate post on this subject.

    One thing though. That ‘practically everybody cheats’ (or ‘what will a truly invisible person do’ types) statement is a hotly contested one. Did you read Freakonomics?

  34. @Sanjay goel- All I am pointing out is that one should not get carried away
    @ Thank you Pawan
    @ Suspect You have got to the root of the problem
    @ Golluguru – I totally agree with you
    @Suspect- Too much income disparity is not good
    @ Ek Awaaz- I like your write ups too
    @ Pradeep Nair- Thanks Mr Nair, Praise from you is praise indeed.
    @ Archana- Sweet are the fruits of adversity
    @ Kishley- I agree
    @ soham- Corruption is too deep rooted. Needs long term surgery
    @ Kapoora- Thanks.
    @ Amodini- The justice system has to change.
    @ rtbhrszbzd-fjdfhrkdk
    @ Prachi- Right you are
    @ Chillabong- You said it as it is like the wysiwyg editor
    @ surfryder- Very nice of you to say so. Thanks a lot.
    @ Silkboard- I was not making a sweeping statement. I enjoy reading your posts too.

  35. Hey Buddy,

    I had added you in my blogroll so it will be easier for me to jump on your blog. Yeah thanks alot for dropping your thoughts on my blog really appreciate it. Buddy now update your blog:))

  36. Hi Hiren,

    A very nice article and couldn’t have agreed with you more. Somewhere in your blog I also read the statistics about how many believe in Gandhigiri. In my review of the book Freakonomics, I spoke about Malthus’s essays on population which seems to be related to this (if you want to bring economics into it). If you look at the broad picture, it’s all a big and seemingly unbreakable (under usual circumstances) viscious cycle. Thanks for viewing my blog.

  37. Great post. However, not everything is so despondent. There are signs of improvement.
    1. RTI act – People have started using it to get the truth. This seems as the highest level of Gandhi’s ideals. People actually forced the Govt to back down when it wanted to choke the act, which is a very good sign.
    2. A large percentage of the cases currently in court involved the Govt in some manner. There are signs that the Govt is trying to reduce the number of cases in which it is a ligitant.
    3. The Courts retain their independence and do not accept any attempt by the Govt to curtail this.
    4. It is nothing but media and people’s disapproval that have force the re-opening of the Jessica Lal and Priyadarshini Mattoo case.
    5. The proliferation of the media networks (including news channels) and their attempts to make a mark for themselves by exposing corruption will have the effect of making people a bit more nervous about practising corruption
    6. As the number of laws that control what people can do go down, scope for corruption reduces.

    Thanks for visiting my blog.

  38. […] TRUE. Hiren wrote an wonderful article on this and i thought that was one of the best post i had read for a long time in this webLife. i recommend you read this post on Times magazine about Gandhiji who was ranked 2nd on their list of greatest leaders and revolutioners. […]

  39. You have fantastic topics going on here. Wonderful! I’m sure to keep coming back for more.

  40. Hello from America! I am an American who has just started to be interested in India’s culture and movies, and the man at the Indian grocery recommended Lage Raho Munnabhai to me. A beautiful movie!

    Many have commented “what can one person following Ghandi do?”

    I have two replies to this: first of all, if you do right, you will have done what is right, no matter what the other person does. The other person has power to hurt you, but not to take away your character.

    Second: Ghandi was an educated man, he wasn’t just a man who followed non-violence, but also a genius who knew the system and the problems with the system. To have success following Ghandi, you can’t just follow non-violence; you must make yourself better in all ways, smarter, more able to challenge the system successfully, as he did.

    We do have corruption in America – for example, a small town near me tried to charge people “off the record” money for speeding tickets in return for not putting the ticket on their driving history. However, in that case, outraged citizens reported to the state government, the town was ordered to stop doing that, the individual policemen were punished, and the money was restored. It does make a big difference when every person is outraged by unfair treatment and speaks up. Sometimes it seems like too much trouble to speak up over a small thing, but allowing small things to pass (like the driver asking for extra money) leads to a culture where larger matters are also allowed to pass. So speak up when you are treated unfairly!

    I hope my comments don’t seem too ignorant, since I know so little about India. 🙂 Thank you for the links, so that I can learn more.

  41. Hiren,

    I fail to get the import of your post. Are you suggesting that the circumstances that prevailes between the 1920’s and 40’s no longer prevail and hence we must not attempt Gandhigiri any more?

    “Who polices the police, who educates the educationists, who watches the watchdog, who makes law for the lawmakers etc or to sum up “Who keeps the keeper?”

    I understand your distress, buy I wish to point out that things as bad when Gandhi attempted Satyagraha. A govt. that was committed to governing the people of India was oppressing, nay looting the people of India.

    I do not claim his philosophy to be perfectly correct. Or effective. It was never very effective.

    I suppose I understand you wrongly, but you seem to suggest that Gandhigiri be applied selectively. I respect your point, but it would look like duplicity to me.

    Criticise Gandhi, by all means, but please offer one whole substitute that we can apply uniformly.

  42. Ram Jethmalani- is undoubtedly a conniving, manipulative liar

    Read this:

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